Launch of the Be Winter-Ready Campaign

Meath, Navan, North Meath, Trim, Wesmeath

Speech by Mr. Damien English, T.D.,

Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY PLEASE

8th November 2017

I am delighted to be here today with my colleagues, Mr. Simon Harris, Minister for Health, Mr. Michael Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Mr. Shane Ross, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Paul Kehoe, Minister of State at the Department of Defence, and Mr. Kevin “Boxer” Moran, Minister of State for the Office of Public Works and Flood Relief and to be associated with the Be Winter Ready campaign, now in its sixth year.

I am delighted to see how the campaign has developed and grown over the years. The campaign aims to provide advice to individuals, communities, and businesses to enable them to prepare for the coming winter.

The value of this preparedness and the importance of providing accurate information and advice to the public was demonstrated as recently as three weeks ago when Storm Ophelia impacted the country. This weather event was unprecedented in its potential impact and severity and precipitated the issuing of a RED LEVEL weather warning for the entire country, the first time this had ever been done.

Tragically 3 people lost their lives during the storm. However, I have no doubt that this number would have been considerably higher without the timely and accurate information and advice provided by the public authorities that enabled people to take action to protect themselves and their property. The preparedness and resilience of individual citizens also had a great part to play in this and in how quickly communities recover from severe weather emergencies.

During and following the storm communities and individuals worked together with the Principal Response Agencies, demonstrating remarkable resilience and resourcefulness to further bolster the response effort. Initiatives and campaigns such as Be Winter Ready contribute enormously to this preparedness and the quality and accuracy of the advice it contains enables this combined effort and helps build trust in the public authorities.

Speaking of preparedness, it is also important that we are ‘Winter-Ready’ with regard to homeless rough sleepers.

Preparations are currently underway across all the major urban local authorities to ensure that additional safe and secure accommodation is available for rough sleepers during any periods of cold winter weather.

Approximately 200 new emergency accommodation spaces will be in place before Christmas. These are additional bed spaces available for single homeless persons which will remain in the system for as long as they are required.

My Department is assigned the Lead Government Department role for the response to severe weather events and takes on the task of convening and leading the National Emergency Coordination Group, which brings together the entire panoply of Government, when severe weather events, such as flooding, occur.

My Department convened a National Emergency Co-ordination Group for Severe Weather in anticipation of the arrival of Storm Ophelia. The Group continued to meet during the storm and in the days following to bring a “whole of Government” response to bear in dealing with this crisis.

My Department is now undertaking a wide-ranging review of the response to Storm Ophelia so that lessons can be identified to further refine and improve how we respond to other emergencies that will occur in the future. The review will engage key stakeholders and representatives of all organisations involved in the response at both national and local level will be invited to participate in a number of debriefing sessions that my Department plans on holding over the coming weeks.

We have just concluded a meeting of the Government Task Force on Emergency Planning which dealt with winter-preparedness and where a comprehensive briefing was provided from across the range of Government Departments and Agencies.

My colleagues and I are jointly launching this campaign to emphasise the ‘whole of Government’ approach that is in place.

The main message is simple; be prepared, stay safe and know where to find help if you need it.

 

Thank you.

Fire Safety at Halloween 2017

Fire Safety, Firefighters, Halloween, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Trim, Wesmeath

Halloween is a fun time for children and adults alike, but it presents
many fire risks.

Fire Services respond to an increased number of incidents, including
bonfires, at this time of year. Bonfires are extremely dangerous and
can cause people to suffer serious injury due to hazardous items being
ignited.

This Halloween, I am urging people to consider their own safety and
the safety of others by being extra careful. Careful does not mean not
having fun, it just means taking into account some simple steps.

In particular, I am urging people to:

– Attend only legal, safe and supervised organised events in your area
– Keep a safe distance from bonfires and fireworks and obey the advice of stewards
– Use battery-operated candles if possible
– Never leave lit candles unattended. Place them in a safe holder where
they are unlikely to be knocked over, away from fabrics and draughts.
– Make sure that costumes have a CE mark and keep them away from naked flames
– Be sure that children know how to “stop, drop and roll” if their
clothing was to catch fire
– Keep pets indoors
– Test all your smoke alarms and replace batteries if necessary

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

ENDS

€586,186 vote of confidence in Meath West towns and villages – English

Athboy, Ballinacree, Ballivor, Collinstown, Delvin, Dromone, Funding, Meath, North Meath, Oldcastle, Tourism, Wesmeath

Wednesday, 4th October 2017

8 Meath West projects to benefit under 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme

The Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, and Meath West Fine Gael
T.D. Damien English has today welcomed news that 8 rural towns and
villages across the Meath West Dáil Constituency are set to benefit
from over €900k in funding under the 2017 Town and Village Renewal
Scheme. The scheme is a key part of the Government’s Action Plan for
Rural Development.

Commenting on the success of the 8 Meath and Westmeath rural town and
villages Minister
English stated: “Fine Gael in Government have placed a particular
emphasis on projects in rural Ireland which have the capacity to
support the economic development of rural town and villages as well as
their neighbouring townlands.  This scheme will also support
improvements to public amenities in town and village centres, to help
make them more attractive places in which to live and work and to
visit. I congratulate the local community groups concerned in
achieving this funding, and the local Councillors and Meath and Westmeath County
Council officials whom they and I liaise with to ensure this vital
funding for local communities. Congratulations again to all concerned”
concluded Minister English.

The 2017 Town and Village Renewal Scheme, which was launched in April
this year, focuses on projects which can help to enhance and develop
rural towns and villages, with a particular emphasis on stimulating
economic development.

The full list of projects funded in the Meath West Dáil Constituency
are set out below:

Athboy Convert Community Centre €100,000.00
Ballinacree Village Enhancement €29,200.00
Ballivor New Playground €90,000.00
Oldcastle Walkway Improvements €78,986.00
Dromone Village Enhancement €72,000.00
Collinstown Develop Village Centre €72,000.00
Delvin Signage,Surface dressing of Laneway,Improve lighting, Provide
Parking. €68,000.00
Killucan/Rathwire Improvement enhancement Town Park,Restoration of
Mass path,Address high level of derelection. €76,000.00

Meath West Dáil Constituency Total: €586,186

ENDS

Meath continues to be at the forefront of Innovation and Entrepreneurship after 5,000 years – English

Action Plan for Jobs, Apprenticeships, Brexit, Business, I.T., Innovation, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Research and Innovation, Wesmeath

Friday, 22nd September 2017

“Meath continues to be at the forefront of Innovation and
Entrepreneurship after 5,000 years.” That’s the view of local Minister
for Housing and Urban Renewal, and Fine Gael T.D. for Meath West
Damien English, speaking after comparing and analysing the jobs data
between the most recent 2016 Census, and the 2011 Census which took
place during Ireland’s recessionary period.

“In 2016 83,254 people in Meath had a job, this is 8,917 more people
than in 2011. Meath based companies who were supported by our State
agencies such as the IDA or Enterprise Ireland employed 8,732 people
in Meath in 2016. This figure is up 2,134 people on the 2011 figure,
or 32%. These jobs are particularly important as they represent jobs
within the County meaning less commuting. They represent native
entrepreneurial spirit and local relevant skills and are mostly export
orientated” stated Minister English.

“Companies supported by our Local Employment Office as part of Meath
County Council employed 927 people in 2016.  This figure was up 86 on
the 2015 figures, a rise of 10%.  On the unemployment front 10,533
Meath people were unemployed in 2016, down 5,769 on the 2011 figure,
or 35%.  Clearly the National and Regional Action Plan for Jobs are
working, in tandem with Meath County Council’s Economic Development
Plan and the work of Meath LEO and Meath Enterprise, but we need to
constantly renew and refine our efforts until every one wants a job
has one, and that job is as local as possible. In this regard I will
continue to back plans for the Boyne Valley Food and Innovation Hub
and the Meath Digital Hub for our County” stated Minister English.

“This  month the unemployment rate fell nationally again to 6.1%, its
lowest rate in 9 years.  These new jobs both locally and nationally
represent dignity and opportunity for people old and young.  New jobs
allows people to fulfil their dreams and their potential, we want to
continue creating that opportunity for everyone who wants it”
concluded Minister English.

ENDS

Speech on Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2016

Meath, National Planning Framework, North Meath, Wesmeath

Private Members Bill

Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2016

Dáil Éireann, 21 September 2017

Speech by Mr. Damien English T.D.,

Minister for Housing and Urban Development

 CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY PLEASE N.B.

Firstly, I would like to thank Deputy Stanley for bringing forward this Wind Turbine Regulation Bill which is timely from a number of perspectives. I have no doubt that the Bill is well intentioned and aims to regulate wind energy development by addressing a number of key issues. So I welcome the opportunity provided by the Deputy’s Bill to discuss the current state of play in relation to the development of the wind energy sector which is an important issue for this Government.

 

At the outset of this debate, it is necessary to set out the wider context of this issue. The development of renewable energy, including wind energy, is at the centre of this Government’s energy policy. The availability of indigenous, sustainable power is a valuable national asset which is vital for achieving energy security and reducing fossil fuel imports, as well as for achieving challenging EU emissions reduction and renewable energy targets.

 

A hallmark of our energy policy approach to date has been to encourage green energy investment. Maintaining a favourable investment climate for the renewable energy sector and sustaining regulatory stability in Ireland has been critical in facilitating the build out of renewable energy infrastructure to this point.

 

Given Ireland’s heavy over-reliance on imported fossil fuels, the development of indigenous onshore wind, which in June 2017 accounted for over 2,800 MegaWatts (MW) connected to the grid, is making a positive contribution to our energy security and avoiding approximately 2.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.

 

The development of the wind sector in Ireland is subject to the planning code in the same manner as other forms of development. Local authority development plans are required to achieve a balance in harnessing the wind energy resources of the planning authority’s area in a manner that is consistent with national policy objectives and proper planning and sustainable development.

 

In this connection, planning authorities are required to have regard to my Department’s Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006 which contain advice to assist planning authorities in drawing up their local development plans and making determinations on wind farm planning applications. In effect, this guidance is aimed at ensuring a consistency of approach throughout the country in the identification – in local development plans – of suitable locations for wind energy development as well as in the treatment of planning applications for such developments, while also having regard to relevant national Government policy, including energy policy.

 

As you will be aware, a targeted review of the 2006 Guidelines has been underway since 2013. As set out in the Programme for Partnership Government, this Government is committed to concluding the review of the Guidelines as speedily as possible with a view to offering a better balance between the concerns of local communities and the need to invest in indigenous energy projects, informed by the public consultation process and best international practice.

 

Since reaching agreement on the Programme for a Partnership Government in May 2016, there has been close engagement on the review of the Guidelines at both Ministerial and official level between my Department and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, given its responsibility for renewable energy policy.

 

On foot of this engagement, in June this year the then Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment announced a key milestone in the review of the Guidelines by announcing details of a proposed ‘preferred draft approach’ to key aspects of the review, which will now be subject to a strategic environmental assessment before the guidelines are finalised and adopted.

 

This ‘preferred draft approach’ was outlined to provide an update to the general public, industry stakeholders and planning authorities on progress being made on the review. It sets out proposals to deal with aspects of the Guidelines relating to noise, setback distance and shadow flicker, community engagement and benefit, and also policy on grid connections from wind farms to the electricity transmission and distribution system.

 

Turning to the specifics of the Deputy’s Bill which is the subject of this evening’s debate, I would now like to outline how the Government is addressing some of its key provisions.

 

Firstly, turning to section 2 of the Bill which provides limits on the export of power generated from wind turbines, the Government’s current policy in relation to the export of electricity is set out in the 2012 Renewable Energy Strategy which, in accordance with European law, supports the export of renewable energy to other EU Member States. However, it is a precondition that any such export would bring clear and significant benefit to the Irish economy, at no net cost to the Irish consumer.

 

This policy is currently being reviewed in the context of the Draft Renewable Electricity Policy and Development Framework, currently being developed by my colleague Minister Naughten and his Department, which will update policy in relation to potential future energy exports. The setting out of national policy on this matter – in Government Strategies or Policy Frameworks – is a more appropriate approach than providing for it in primary legislation as proposed by Deputy Stanley.

 

In addition, the provisions in section 2 of the Bill could result in significant operational and market design implications for Eirgrid, in the management of energy flows on the East-West Interconnector and potentially for future interconnectors.

 

Section 3 of the Deputy’s Bill relates to the location of turbines, providing that all locations for proposed wind turbines must be designated in County Development Plans, be consistent with the development plan and be designated with the approval of the elected members.

 

This is already largely the case but the key point that is missing here is that local development plans must also have regard to national policy, including energy policy, as well as section 28 guidance issued by the Minister to local authorities on the drawing up of development plans.

 

Section 3 is particularly problematic in that it proposes that local authorities could effectively act independently and set their own local wind energy development policy in their development plans without having regard to national policy or guidance. This would be a retrograde step which would militate against the achievement of national policy objectives and accordingly the Government strongly opposes this Section.

 

I would now like to address sections 4, 5 and 6 of the Bill in relation to public consultation, noise limits, shadow flicker and wind farm set back distances. In this context, it should be noted that the recently announced “preferred draft approach” addresses these issues by proposing the following:

 

  • the application of a more stringent noise limit, consistent with World Health Organisation standards, in tandem with a new robust noise monitoring and enforcement regime, to ensure compliance with noise standards;
  • a visual amenity setback of 4 times the turbine height between a wind turbine and the nearest residential property, subject to a mandatory minimum distance of 500 metres;
  • the elimination of shadow flicker through requirements to operate automated wind turbine control mechanisms as a condition of the grant of planning permission; and
  • the introduction of new obligations in relation to engagement with local communities by wind farm developers along with the provision of community benefit

 

In this connection, a wide range of community, spatial planning, energy policy, environmental, technological and industry considerations need to be appropriately balanced. The proposed “preferred draft approach” is aimed at achieving this broad balance which would not be possible under the provisions of Deputy Stanley’s Bill.

 

In addition to the concerns that I expressed in relation to section 3 of the Bill, I must also oppose the setback distance provisions in section 6, which proposes that turbines with a height of greater than 25 metres shall be located not less than a distance of ten times the height of the turbine away from any dwelling. This provision would significantly reduce the amount of land available throughout the country for wind farm development, thereby stymying the industry and minimising the possibilities for achieving our renewable energy targets, while simultaneously exposing the State to substantial EU fines.

 

Another aspect of the Bill that I would like to briefly refer to is the section 11 provisions on co-ownership of wind farms for local communities. In this regard, the Government recognises that community consultation and community dividend are important components of future wind farm development, with both community ownership and part-ownership of wind energy projects by local communities being encouraged.

 

Under the ‘preferred draft approach’, it is proposed to oblige developers of wind farm projects to engage in active consultation and dialogue with the local community at an early stage in the process, prior to submitting a planning application. It is further proposed that planning applications shall contain a Community Report prepared by the applicant outlining how the final proposal has been modified to take account of the community consultations undertaken.

In addition, the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, for which a consultation was launched on 4 September 2017, has community participation and ownership designed into its fabric. The consultation sets out a number of policy options to support both community-led projects and developer-led projects with material community involvement and benefit.

 

In particular, the Consultation is examining how to facilitate the development of community-led renewable electricity projects by providing initial funding, technical and legal advice to communities seeking to develop renewable projects. Furthermore, multiple support mechanisms including financial supports, infrastructural supports including facilitating access to the grid for community-led projects and technical support for communities as their projects progress through to commissioning are also being assessed.

 

Larger scale developer-led renewable electricity projects will have to meet certain criteria in terms of offering investment opportunities to local communities. The ownership policy option is not limited to offering an equity stake however and the proposals put forward are aimed at maximising citizen and community participation.

 

The Consultation also proposes a formalised community benefit payments register which will provide financial benefits to the entire community, including those unable to participate in the ownership proposals.

 

As each project and each community will be different, I don’t think it is appropriate to provide for co-ownership of wind farms by local communities in the quite prescriptive manner as proposed by Deputy Stanley in section 11 and that instead, this issue can be better addressed in the manner proposed in the ‘preferred draft approach’ and in the draft Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.

Conclusion

Those are some of my initial comments on the Bill and I will elaborate further after listening to the comments of Deputies.

 

 

Government funding to improve quality of school age childcare in Meath – Minister English

Childcare, Funding, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Trim
Friday, 18th August 2017
Funding of over €76,000 has been made available by Government to help
improve the quality of school age childcare in Meath according to
local Minister for Housing and Urban Development and Fine Gael T.D.
for Meath West Damien English.This is part of a nationwide allocation of €1.2 million from the School Age Childcare Capital Scheme announced by the Minister for
Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone.“This funding builds on the recent allocation of €70,000 in funding to
help new and existing services to increase the number of childcare
places that they provide here in Meath. In total Meath is receiving
over €176,000 in new funding this Summer 2017 alone to increase
capacity and improve the quality of childcare services.“Improving the quality of existing school age childcare services was
one of the key actions of the Action Plan on School Age Childcare,
published in March. Examples of how we do this given by Minister
Zappone include the provision of age appropriate play equipment to
stimulate children mentally and physically. The idea of this is to try
to replicate the home environment for children where they need to
avail of childcare afterschool.

Fine Gael is also delivering on its election commitment to help ease
the financial cost of childcare for hard-pressed working families. New
childcare supports coming on stream this September will benefit up to
70,000 children.

“A new universal childcare subsidy, of up to €1,040 per year, is
available for children aged from 6 months up to starting their free
pre-school year (ECCE Scheme) at 36 months.

“In addition to this universal payment, there will also be further
childcare supports for families who need them most. Families on lower
incomes, who qualify by way of a means test, will be eligible for
supports worth up to €7,500 per year for children aged 6 months to 15
years of age.

“The aim is to ensure that parents previously prevented from taking up
jobs, training or education because of the cost of childcare, will now
be able to do so.

“Fine Gael is building a Republic of Opportunity, ensuring that
everyone has a fair chance to reach their full potential. Access to
employment and education is a big part of this. Yet childcare can
often be a barrier, where it should be a bridge to opportunity for
parents, their children and our economy.

“That’s why it’s so important we continue to invest in childcare here
in Meath in order to increase capacity, improve quality and help ease
the cost for parents.

“I strongly encourage all parents to visit – affordablechildcare.ie –
to see the supports available to their family here in Meath” concluded
Minsiter English.

ENDS

English: Ramparts Navan and Girley Bog Loop to benefit from Rural Recreation Projects funding

Funding, Heritage, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Tourism

Monday, 31st July 2017

“i am delighted to learn from Minister Michael Ring this morning that
Navan Ramparts (€10k) and Girley Bog Loop (€6k) in the Meath West Dáil
Constituency are to benefit under the 2017 Outdoor Recreation
Infrastructure Scheme” Minister for Housing and Urban Development and
Meath West Fine Gael T.D. Damien English has stated.

The Scheme is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural
Development and provides funding for the development of new outdoor
recreational infrastructure and the maintenance, enhancement and
promotion of existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in Ireland.

“Recreational tourism is a growing sector in Ireland’s tourism
offering, and we have seen an increase in the number of Irish and
overseas visitors enjoying our local tourism and heritage offering in
Meath. This investment in the Ramparts in Navan and the Girley Bog
Loop will further enhance our outdoor recreational offering for both
locals and visitors alike” Minister English concluded.

ENDS

Notes to Editor:

Navan Ramparts and Girley Bog Loop fall under Measure 1: Small
maintenance/promotion of existing infrastructure (maximum grant
€10,000)

The scheme will primarily be run by Local Authorities and State
Agencies, and funding will be provided to a maximum of 80% of total
project costs, with the balance to be provided from Local Authority or
other sources.

English urges Meath West Community Youth Groups to prepare to apply to €4m Capital Fund

Agher, Athboy, Ballinacree, Ballinlough, Ballivor, Bohermeen, Budget 2017, Castlepollard, Childcare, CLAR, Clonard, Collinstown, Education, Enfield, Funding, Johnstown, Killyon, Longwood, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Oldcastle, Summerhill, Trim, Wesmeath

Local community youth groups can apply from late September

Monday 31st July 2017

Meath West community youth groups are set to benefit from a €4m
capital fund being established by Government, Minister for Housing and
Urban Development Damien English T.D. has stated.

The money is being made available to allow clubs buy equipment which
will support their work with young people, and applications open in
late September. The Meath West Fine Gael T.D. is urging local
community youth groups to begin thinking about and preparing for their
application.

Minister English stated: “Nationally, over 1,500 volunteer led clubs
will be eligible to apply, reaching practically every community in the
country. I want to see Meath West getting its fair share. I encourage
Meath West clubs to examine which sports, arts, adventure or other
equipment they need the most and be ready to apply.’

Minister English saluted the youth group volunteers, stating: “These
volunteer led youth clubs do so much good work on the ground. They are
in the frontline providing young people with indoor and outdoor
activities to prevent them falling into trouble. They also improve
health, wellbeing and build team spirit in our communities.”

“The value of this work is not under-estimated by Government, hence
this new fund.The Application process for the funding is expected to
open in late September. I am happy to help local community youth
groups with their applications” concluded Minister English.

ENDS

Increase in minimum wage will benefit lower paid workers – English

Business, Funding, Jobs, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Oldcastle, Wesmeath

18th July 2017

Increase in minimum wage will benefit lower paid workers – English

The Low Pay Commission is recommending an increase to the minimum wage
of 30 cents, bringing it to €9.55 per hour.

Fine Gael Minister of State for Meath West, Damien English TD,
believes this and other supports will greatly benefit lower paid
workers here in Meath West.

“Increasing the minimum wage is just one tool in a wider Government
programme to help the lower paid and incentivise people into work.

“Affordable Childcare is on the way this September, which will see up
to €1,040 per year for children in full time childcare.

“The latest data from the Central Statistics Office shows that show
that that Ireland is becoming more equal and that poverty is
decreasing.

“Fine Gael in Government recognises that higher levels of public
investment in social and economic infrastructure in Meath West, will
improve skills, childcare, and empower our communities.

“These are the building blocks for more inclusive, fairer and
sustainable patterns of economic growth in our society.

“The latest CSO Household Budget Survey shows that our economic
recovery is being used to reduce inequality across the country

“The ‘Household Budget Survey’ found that the gap between the highest
and lowest income households narrowed between 2009-2010 and 2015-2016.

“Economic and social progress go hand in hand. Only a strong economy
supporting people at work can pay for the services needed to create a
fair society.” Minister English said.

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, said: “The Government welcomes the
recommendation from the Low Pay Commission to increase the national
minimum wage by 30c to €9.55 per hour. It would work out as a €12
increase in a full 40 hour week.

“This would be a modest increase but it’s ahead of the rate of
inflation and average increases in earnings. It would be the fourth
increase in the minimum wage since 2011, and the second under this
Government, and a further step towards the Programme for Government
commitment for a minimum wage of €10.50.

ENDS

English urges Parents to look into Affordable Childcare Supports

Budget 2017, Childcare, Funding, Meath, Navan, North Meath, Wesmeath

11th July 2017

New website affordablechildcare.ie

Damien English, Meath West Fine Gael TD and Minister for Housing and
Urban Renewal is urging Parents in Meath West to look into the new
childcare supports that can help them financially from September.

There have been over 173,000 page visits to an information website –
affordablechildcare.ie – in the past month alone as more and more
parents look into the supports available to them.

Minister English said, “I strongly encourage all parents here in Meath
West to log on to the website and get informed of the supports
available to them.

“Up to 70,000 children will have extra supports negotiated in this
year’s budget come into force at the start of the pre-school year,
with some children will receive childcare benefits up to €7,500. This
will really benefit families in Meath West

“We are enhancing existing targeted childcare supports by as much as
50%. There will be improved access to subsidies for providers – with
the traditional Community Childcare Scheme (CCS) being extended to
both community and private providers.

“Overall total spending on child care programmes this year is €466m –
representing a 79% increase on figures in 2015. Now we must ensure
that families receive the benefit of this.

“Families will benefit in two ways. Firstly, the changes will see a
universal benefit for every child under 3-years old. Universal
subsidies, of up to €1,040 per annum, which will be available for all
children aged between 6 and 36 months in full time childcare.

“The second targeted support is based on income and also for those
parents who have had to turn down jobs, training and education because
they cannot afford childcare.

“As Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone has
said, this is the first big step, but there is still much work to done
in this area. I am assured that the Minister is focused on quality of
childcare, accessibility and also recognition for the workers who
provide services.

“Since first entering Government, Fine Gael has prioritised hard
pressed working families; the people who bore the brunt of the
economic recession. A major part of this has been to reduce the cost
of childcare for working parents.

“We introduced the free pre-school year, and subsequently extended it
to a second year. It is estimated the extended scheme provides an
average saving of €4,000 per child.

“We also recently introduced paternity leave for the first time ever.
Dads are now entitled to two weeks’ paid leave.

“I will continue working to ensure that parents across Meath West can
avail of high quality and affordable care for their children when they
need it. Fine Gael will continue to ease the financial burden on hard
press working families.”

ENDS